On April 2, 2013 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hosted a Supplier Diversity Best Practices Leadership Forum for Small Utilities. More than 30 attendees heard from a variety of presenters.

CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon gave a brief overview of General Order (GO) 156, adopted by the CPUC in 1986 and updated in 2010. The intent of GO 156 was to encourage investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to purchase 21.5 percent of their goods and services from diverse business enterprises that were historically left out of utility procurement. GO 156 established purchasing goals of 15 percent from minority-owned firms, 5 percent from women-owned firms and 1.5 percent from disabled-veteran-owned firms.

Carol Brown, Chief of Staff to CPUC President Michael Peevey, highlighted Peevey’s initiatives in this area, which included establishing the CPUC annual En Banc proceedings to review utilities’ programs with GO 156 goals and establishing the California Utilities Diversity Council. During the past 10 years, the amount utilities spent for goods and services from California’s diverse suppliers grew from $1 billion to more than $8 billion. The CPUC’s GO 156 goal for the next two years is to increase this amount to $10 billion.

Stephanie Green, CPUC Diversity Program and Project Supervisor, also highlighted several guiding principles to ensure an effective supplier diversity program, which can be found in the CPUC white paper “Supplier Diversity: Creating a Framework for Success.”

Speaking about the “Growth in Water Utility Diverse Procurement,” California Water Association’s (CWA) Executive Director Jack Hawks shared a chart showing that CWA member companies have more than tripled their Utility Supplier Diversity Program (USDP) activities since 2006. In 2012 alone, the combined USDP expenditures of seven CWA member companies, whose total procurement is a fraction of the much larger energy and telecommunications utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric Company and AT&T, exceeded $74.5 million. Hawks attributed much of this success to inter-company cooperation, which has resulted in significant synergies for the IOUs.

CWA’s USDP Committee has had an extensive outreach program from its inception in 2006. CWA member companies also are actively involved at CPUC small business expositions and chamber and community-based organizations events. The IOUs hold supplier diversity matchmaking events to match the needs of IOUs with the goods and services offered by minority-owned, women-owned and disabled-veteran-owned businesses.

For more information on the CPUC’s Supplier Diversity Program, visit http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/supplierdiversity/.

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